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Social Media Circulates Facts, Rumors in Graham Case

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CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (WVIR) -

The search for Hannah Graham and her suspected abductor is filling social media feeds. Facebook shares and Twitter retweets get more eyes on the missing and wanted posters, but they can also spread harmful speculation and rumors.

The hashtag "Hannah Graham" on Twitter turns up photos of the missing University of Virginia student and wanted posters for the man accused of abducting her from Charlottesville. Scroll through and you can read a constant conversation from news reports to messages of support from strangers.

Students at UVA are coming to grips with what is now a criminal investigation into the disappearance of Graham, an 18-year-old second-year student.

“My really close friends are really close with her, and it was rough for them,” said third-year UVA student Adrian Blust.

Second-year student Caroline Williams said, “It's put a sad cloud over everything. But I also feel like a strong sense of togetherness and community.”

From word-of-mouth to Twitter and Facebook, the search for Hannah Graham continues 24/7.

“I've been asking around and everyone seems to know everyone. Everyone is keeping each other updated,” Blust said.

More than 5,000 people have shared the suspect's wanted poster through a Facebook page set up by the Help Save the Next Girl organization.

“Social media is the fastest way to make sure that the whole community gets that information as soon as possible and to use it in taking the next step in finding her,” Williams said.

But Marijean Jaggers from Jaggers Communications in Charlottesville warns social media users to beware of Facebook or Twitter detectives.

“It's important to be careful about that and to not speculate and to not fan the flames of these rumors because that detracts from the police, who are trying to do their job,” Jaggers said.

Because this is now a criminal case, police will release fewer details. Jaggers says that slowing flow of information can lead to more speculation.

You can find a list of five things you can do with social media to help the search for Graham here.